Evaluation Study of the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program and the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program of the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999
The recent nationwide move to hold schools accountable for student performance is not an entirely new phenomenon, but it is significant in that it is so closely linked to the call for a systemic, standards-based overhaul of education. As part of this reform, states and districts are designing new approaches to holding schools and districts accountable for accomplishing their missions, or more particularly for moving the children in their charge closer to achieving state standards in key academic domains. Following this trend, California state lawmakers spent much of the late 1990s attempting to put the elements of a standards-based accountability system in place. The result was the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) of 1999, which incorporates three central components designed to encourage improvement of practice and student learning. These components are: The Academic Performance Index (API); The Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program (II/USP); and The High Achieving/Improving Schools Program (HA/ISP), including the Governor’s Performance Award (GPA) program.
The Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program (II/USP) provides funds to low performing schools in the state to create and implement an Action Plan for school improvement. The funding currently comes from two different sources: state funds appropriated for II/USP (“Action Plan Schools”) and funds from the federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) program. In the first year of funding, II/USP schools develop a school Action Plan with the required assistance of a state-approved External Evaluator. State-funded schools have the following two years to implement their Action Plan, while CSRD-funded schools have the following three years to implement a research-based school reform model. Schools that participate in the II/USP are potentially subject to sanctions at the end of the implementation period should they not improve student performance.
The Governor’s Performance Award (GPA) program is an incentive program that awards schools that meet their schoolwide API growth targets, show comparable growth among all significant ethnic and economically disadvantaged subgroups, and satisfy participation rates. Recipient schools decide how to use the funds, with approval of local governing boards. No monies have been appropriated for awards since the second cycle; nor, given the current state budget crisis, are any future awards expected.
In December 2001, American Institutes for Research (AIR), in partnership with Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and EdSource, contracted with the California Department of Education to conduct the legislatively mandated independent evaluation of the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program (II/USP) and the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program (HA/ISP) of the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) of 1999. The evaluation addresses the impact of II/USP and GPA as well as factors that contributed to or hindered achievement growth in participating schools.